Swire Hotels – an innovative approach to luxury hospitality

CPP-LUXURY.COM has recently interviewed, exclusively, Mr Brian Williams, the Managing Director of Swire Hotels.

How has luxury hospitality changed in the past 3 years? Could we speak of a distinct definition between 5 star and luxury?

There is certainly a shift in the desires of customers who once enjoyed the traditional 5 star experience to an experience that could now be better described as modern luxury. There is still a requirement for a sense of place and to maintain strong craftsmanship etc. but perhaps there is less desire for extravagance in design and service delivery.

The Upper House in Hong Kong has been a model of success, receiving countless awards. How much of the success of the hotel is due to the competitive environment of Hong Kong?

The quality of our competitors means we are constantly looking to innovate and raise the bar to stay ahead of the curve so there is healthy competition there. Our size certainly helps us to maintain the attention to quality across all areas of the hotel experience that our guests so appreciate.

Why have you opted to divide your hotels in certain categories? Are you planning to expand accordingly? What are the differences between The House Collection and the East Hotels?

The House is a collection of small luxury boutique hotels providing a characterful experience for travellers who seek individuality, style and personalised service. We have two Houses – The Opposite House, Beijing, opened in 2008 ; The Upper House, above Pacific Place, Hong Kong, opened in October 2009.

EAST, a lifestyle business hotel – EAST, Hong Kong with 344 rooms located in Hong Kong’s Island East, opened on 25 January 2010. EAST, Beijing with 369 rooms, located within INDIGO in Jiangtai, opened in September 2012.

Swire Hotels has launched a new collection of locally inspired and stylish hotels in the heart of great British towns and cities called Chapter Hotels. The first hotel in the collection, The Montpellier Chapter, Cheltenham opened in 2010. The second hotel, The Magdalen Chapter, Exeter opened in June 2012.

What is your business model for the properties you do now own? Do you have plans to become a third party management company?

The hotels are a complement to Swire Properties mixed use developments.

We have no plans to become a third party management company.

The Opposite House in Beijing. Tell us about the innovations and novelties the hotel has introduced both to Beijing’s luxury hotel market but also in comparison with the Upper House?

We provide unique and personal experiences for both staying guests and Restaurants & Bars guests. It’s like staying at a friend’s home, with a warm welcome, convenience, absolutely no fuss and simple contemporary design. Moreover, The Opposite House was the first Hotel in Beijing to launch in-room Apple iPads®; complete with a supporting preloaded app to help guests navigate the hotel’s facilities as well as getting insider tips on the city’s entertainment, shopping and dining options which help make a visit to the city memorable by offering another level of engagement to guests. The cities are different and the hotels are different to reflect that. As previously mentioned a sense of place is key to success and is at the core of what we do in terms of design and service delivery and why we make the choices we do that perhaps differ between the two with regards to innovations and novelties. They are city appropriate. Hong Kong for instance

What do you think is the key motivational factor for guests to post reviews following their stays? – on websites such as Tripadvisor, which has been ranking your property as one of the best in the world.

The team is indeed honoured and appreciative of the recognition. Our goal is to provide natural spontaneous service and create characterful experiences for our guests with innovative restaurants and bars. I think guests are motivated to review as a way of showing their appreciation for that experience.

Do you have expansion plans outside Asia and the UK? Is London a priority destination for you in terms of expansion?

Swire Hotels has been created to manage intriguing and luxury urban hotels in Hong Kong, Mainland China and the United Kingdom, providing a characterful experience for travellers who seek individuality, style and personalised service. We act as a complement to Swire Properties mixed use developments and therefore consider opportunities within the group wherever Swire Properties may be looking in Hong Kong, Asia and beyond.

EAST Beijing was opened last year and it has further strengthened the brand portfolio in China. Further developments of Swire Hotels will be announced in later stage.

What are the biggest challenges you foresee in the near future in terms of competitive pressure and general market conditions for the hotels you operate in Asia?

China is regarded by many as the future and many hotel groups are looking to the East for expansion so there will be an influx of top quality brands particularly into China that we will be looking out for.

Brian Williams, Managing Director, Swire Hotels